What is happening to New Ferry breaks my heart.
This week’s announcements that both the Co-op and Lloyds are closing will leave Sayers and Ladbrokes as the only chain shops left in the town centre. It is a hammer blow to other local business who need the footfall, and of course to New Ferry residents who are seeing their town hollowed out in front of their eyes.
Ultimately, this is the fault of central government. The recession in 2008 hit places like New Ferry hard, but there was no reason why they should not have been able to pick themselves up again with a bit of help from the government. Instead, the coalition government abandoned these communities. Soaring business rates and a planning policy which is supposed to put town centres first, but actually does nothing of the sort, have played a part. But the real betrayal has been the withdrawal of regeneration funding and drastic cuts to council budgets that have hamstrung their attempts to help their communities.
Gestures at helping high streets, like the pathetic Portas Pilots scheme, did nothing to tackle the real issues, like absentee landlords restricting developments.
Now we are seeing the results of that inaction.
I’ve been raising this issue relentlessly since I was elected, meeting David Ball 35 time times to talk about New Ferry specifically and lobbying developers about regeneration and investment. I’ve taken the fight to the House of Commons and asked ministers for central government funding to get New Ferry back on its feet. I even applied for Portas Pilot funding to get some investment, but the application failed.
The situation is now critical. The government won’t act, so I think the council have to do something. I will be doing everything I can to work with them to solve the persistent problems that are choking off regeneration in New Ferry.
This is so important to me. Town centres are spaces of civic pride and identity, when they decline the whole community suffers. We can’t sit back and watch New Ferry vanish. I’m going to keep fighting for investment, regeneration and more support for local businesses. The New Ferry community haven’t given up on their town centre, I won’t either.